BANGUI, Central African Republic – Members of a national transitional council chose the female mayor of Central African Republic’s capital to lead the country out of chaos Monday, as a top U.N. official urged the international community to keep the nation from “crossing the tipping-point into an all-out sectarian conflict.”
At two meetings in Brussels, international donors pledged a total of $496 million in humanitarian assistance and European Union foreign ministers took a first step toward potentially deploying hundreds more troops to reinforce French and African peacekeepers to secure the lawless and violent country where nearly 1 million people are displaced.
Bangui Mayor Catherine Samba-Panza was chosen as interim president after two rounds of voting, becoming the first female leader in the country’s history. She beat out Desire Zanga-Kolingba, the son of a former president, in Monday’s runoff. Samba-Panza, dressed in a bright pink suit jacket, thrust her arms into the air in victory.
Samba-Panza, a longtime corporate lawyer in the insurance industry who took over the mayor’s office last June, now will be tasked with organizing national elections before the end of the year, a job critics say may be nearly impossible given the amount of looting and destruction to administrative buildings throughout the country.